One taste of zuppa di porcini whisks me to rural Tuscany in autumn. My friend Anna Maria Gaggio showed me how to make this dish in the kitchen of her Tuscan farmhouse, using fresh porcini gathered by her husband Mario.
Because imported porcini are outrageously expensive, I recreate the soup using a mixture of fresh baby bella mushrooms and reconstituted dried porcini. The flavor is intense because the dried mushrooms concentrate the essence.
The portions in this recipe are adequate for a light meal with a salad. Half portions make a wonderful first course for a holiday meal. If you like, prepare the soup a few days ahead of time, refrigerate and reheat before serving.
Zuppa di Porcini
Serves 4 to 6
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 cans fat-free reduced-sodium (14 1/2 ounces each) chicken broth, divided
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/4 pounds baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
4 cups water
4 to 6 slices (1-inch-thick) toasted rustic bread
2 ounces (1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
Place the porcini and 1 cup of broth in a microwaveable glass measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a vent. Microwave for 3 minutes or until bubbling. Set aside for 10 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the baby bella mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, red-pepper flakes, and salt. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to give off liquid. Turn off the heat.
Drain the porcini through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter. Save the broth. Rinse the porcini and chop. Add the porcini, mushroom broth, chicken broth, water, and tomatoes to the pot. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes for the flavors to blend.
Place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the bread. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
Fresh rosemary is preferable to commercially dried leaves but if necessary, 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary may replace the fresh. Home-dried leaves, which crumble more readily than the commercially packaged rosemary, are also good to use. When you buy a bunch of fresh rosemary for a recipe, if you don’t use it all right away, it makes sense to dry or freeze the remaining branches so they don’t go to waste.